musical burden

My upright grand piano was nabbed by my parents from a local church for a hundred bucks when I was nine, and it has been moved six times in the last thirty years.

If I’ve learned anything over time, it’s that friends don’t let friends move pianos. Asking friends to move my piano is like asking them to donate a kidney. I hire professionals. Watching a professional mover transport a piano is like watching a professional sport. They perform the job with skill, physics, and patience, and they always walk away upright when they’re done.

The last move took place eight years ago. When the movers showed up at my front doorstep, I warily looked them up and down before letting them in. unfortunately, I should have trusted my instincts, because although they assured me they knew how to move it, they certainly relied less on physics and more on physique, which, quite frankly, was sadly lacking. And halfway down the basement stairs, their strategy collapsed. Unlucky Tuck at the bottom started to groan under the 800 pound weight of the load. Meanwhile, the guy at the top could do nothing to help his quivering friend a few steps down, other than offering half-valiant-half-panicked cheers of encouragement. The groans turned to shouts, “I can’t do this!! I’m not going to make it!” before he finally gave in, took a leap, and let the baby fall down the stairs. When my ears stopped ringing, and I confirmed that I didn’t have a crushed body at the bottom of my stairs, I ventured down, surveying the damage. Walls were subsequently repaired, but the ol’ beast turned out solid, and will continue to live past its 111th year.

I’ve played my piano for thousands of hours. I know the weight and texture of each ivory key, and the story behind almost every scratch. The last time I saw my grandfather alive, he was in our home, gently pressing the keys while wearing his hospital cap after surgery for brain cancer. He died only a few days later. When I was about 15, my father, worried how my fingers hurt from the chipped ivory, ground each key down smoothly across the entire keyboard. I used to hide candy under the lid … safest place in the house! Recently, my son set a wet water gun on its surface, ruining the finish, and there’s also the dent on the side where the unfortunate stairway experience left its mark.

That piece of furniture has enormous value to me. But as the years pass, the day will come when I need to get rid of it. Although I value that piece, my children will simply not see it the same. They are less enamored with the object, and more with the person. The piano will not be their focus of sentiment, but rather the memories of me playing it. If I were to leave it behind for them, they would also inherit the subsequent burden of decision as to what to do with it, and the natural concern that disposal would be disrespectful to me. Why would I want to give them that pain?

To read more about these thoughts, come back Saturday, when I’ll be posting this month’s St. Albert Gazette column.

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